A long wait is over, and it’s Fall

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The usual nine months it takes for the arrival of a baby calf took something on the order of 15 months this time. The mama cow kept expanding, and months ago all the other signs were there, but no baby. I’ve got a fine chart that never misses a due date by more than a couple of days, so why did I not know the expected date?

We didn’t breed her back right after she calved last year, and I forgot to write down when she was put in with the bull. Why does that matter? We have a very active coyote pack and have lost a couple of calves to them. It makes us sick to lose an innocent calf that way. We now keep the cows in the corral their last week, so the babies are born under protection.

The cow, running with two steer sons and a nephew, came up regularly for evening feed, and I locked them in the corral overnight just in case she might have that calf. This has been going on for two months and every morning when I let them out I prayed I’d see her again that evening.  Cows love to have their calves in the brush away from all the comings and goings at the houses.  This cow has only half of the brush of her tail because she had to defend her calf from coyotes three years ago. We figured they grabbed her tail trying to distract her from her new-born calf.  She is a tough sister and didn’t fall for it.

About three weeks ago the four animals stayed down the road with the other cows until almost dark. I whooshed them up the road with lots of yapping from the dog, but then the cow took herself into dense brush on the way up to the corrals. Two evenings of being dragged through the brush was enough for me, and she got locked in the corral until calving time. I thought she might be trying to ditch the rest of us and hide out until calving. It took several days of watching her to realize she was probably just trying to scrape off flies in that brush, but by then I’d made the fatal call and knew that if I let her out again, she’d never come into the corral with the others. She’d just stay outside and run off if I tried to get her in. I tried to make her wait pleasant with alfalfa treats and such, but she was not very pleased.

A baby bull met me two evenings ago. At last! The cow was crafty to the end, surprising us all by calving just after noon. He is red with a few white sprinkles on his hindquarters and an unusual mark on the top of his neck. The mark is caliche-colored unlike the white elsewhere.  We’ve never seen this mark on any longhorn we have ever seen. Long-awaited and unusually marked, he is welcomed.

We must have gotten cold just perfectly one early morning last week because all the trees and bushes are turning gorgeous colors. Last evening when the dog and I drove back up the ranch road after filling the wildlife water tubs, we were treated to a lovely sight of light slanting across a yellow grass field with hazy blue mountain and trees behind.

A pretty Italian waltz was playing on the pickup radio.

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